Substance Abuse and Prevention Experts Prepare for Elevated Risk in Post-Sandy New Jersey

LAKEWOOD – Leaders in the field of substance abuse and prevention gathered at the New Jersey Prevention Network’s (NJPN) 13th Annual Addiction Conference in Atlantic City last week for a review and update on the health of New Jersey. Among the topics discussed, field experts attending this day of education prepared for what is expected to be an increase of substance abuse on the heels of Superstorm Sandy.

“Research has shown that Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may develop in people after they witness or endure natural disasters. Research has also shown that PTSD is a risk factor for substance abuse and addiction,” said Fran Miceli, Clinical Director at Samaritan Center at the Jersey Shore and workshop presenter at the March 8th conference. “Based on what we’ve learned from the aftermath of the bombing in Oklahoma City, the terror attacks of 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina, it may be 6 to 18 months or even years before we see the full impact of a trauma like Sandy.”

With studies indicating PTSD is associated with as much as a 4-fold increase in risk for drug abuse and dependence, Miceli’s workshop “After the Storm: Lessons Learned from Oklahoma City to New York City to New Orleans to the Jersey Shore” was a popular offering at the NJPN conference. Workshop attendees garnered strategies to help mitigate the negative effects of Superstorm Sandy and reduce the probability of the abuse and misuse of substances.

“Our state has experienced significant loss in the last year,” said Diane Litterer, the Executive Director of the New Jersey Prevention Network. “Hurricane Sandy was devastating to so many communities, families and friends. Though it was months ago, its devastation continues to be ever present for many. The physical and emotional ramifications of this storm will be rippled into our work for years to come. Coming together in forums like this helps us to prepare and to come together to support those in need.”

Additional conference tracts included: female gang activity, alcohol and the teen brain, impact of nutrition and health on substance abuse treatment outcomes, drug trends, teen suicide & substance abuse, the value of opt-in random drug testing in middle and high school, best practices in treating dual diagnosis, and a look at compulsive behaviors such as sex, the Internet, gambling and others. Attendees also attended sessions on applying different treatment philosophies, as well as how to utilize research base prevention strategies to improve services provided.

The conference was sponsored by NJPN’s coalition partners: The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Partnership For a Drug-Free New Jersey, the New Jersey State Police (NJSP), the New Jersey National Guard, the Institute for Prevention: Barnabas Behavioral Health Network, Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Director’s Association, and the United States Army Substance Abuse Program. For the past 13 years, these organizations have joined together to look at the state of drug and alcohol abuse within New Jersey and have developed a conference geared towards preventing use and abuse of dangerous substances.

Additional sponsors include, the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (GCADA), Seabrook House, New Jersey Health Initiatives, High Focus Centers, American Addiction Centers, Atlantic Prevention Resources, Prevention Plus in Burlington County, Camden County Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Prevention First of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, and the Center for Prevention and Counseling in Sussex County.

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